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BETER THAN THIS (1998)
Better Than This - Click to view! From the Illinois hamlet of Normal comes the three-piece band the normals, whose debut Better Than This solidly states the never-changing gospel. Exploring themes of trust and belief, the upbeat title track closes--and the record's best song "Song and Dance" begins. The pulsating "Whoa-oo-oo-yeah" tag line fades into a string chorus and message of consuming need for Christ. The Normals band lineup and sound are reminiscent of labelmates Seven Day Jesus, as the electric rhythm and excellent vocal of leader Andrew Osenga sits roughly atop Mark Beckett's approximate harmony and unique riffs and Clayton Daily's somewhat unrestrained drumwork. As with any artist, songwriting makes or breaks the band. Deep feeling, emotion and painful honesty are the cornerstone of Andrew Osenga's songs, as seen in these lines: "How can You see me as I really am and still call me pure? ~ I am lukewarm, I am icy ~ I'm everything but what I believe." This thought-filled lyrical perspective makes Better Than This a worthy contribution to the Christian music world and certainly a worthwhile investment. Other highlights include the driving acoustic chorus "I Need You," the story-in-song hit "Everything (Apron Full of Stains)," "What's Ailing Norman?," "Daddy's Girl," an intelligent answer to the overblown emotionalism of "Butterfly Kisses," and the closing worship track "Forgive." In the desert wasteland of obnoxious, repetitive Christian A/C, it's a warm welcome given to these intense and intelligent music ministers - the Normals.
- Josh M. Shepherd
April 1999
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